Thursday, December 30, 2021

Puerto Rico - Here we come!

We were really excited about going to Puerto Rico! It is our first Caribbean island and getting a week long vacation is always exciting.

Our itinerary and a few short notes:

1. Clothes : You do not need Jeans, leggings or any warm clothes in Puerto Rico. Shorts and dresses are the most convenient. Rain Jackets, Poncho and umbrella are handy, as it rains quite randomly here, and the rain stops quickly too.

2. On the topic of rain, rain should not discourage you from exploring Puerto Rico, as it showers for 5 minutes, and then it stops suddenly and the bright sun is out.

3. Food and coffee in Puerto Rico is awesome! And there are many cafes and restaurants around with yummy food. Will provide a few names below which we tried.

4.In PR, the maps are all in Kms. It takes some time to shift from miles to kms in your head.

5. The beaches on the west side of the island - Rincon and Cabo Rojo are more beautiful than the ones in Condado. If you have a car, then driving to this side is really nice

6. El Yunque is a must see, and this requires you to reserve earlier for your car parking.its only $2 for parking so I would advice reserving 2-3 days so it gives you flexibility to go on either of the days. The National Forest app, is also useful to understand which trails are open and which are closed in El Yunque.

7. We did the bioluminescence trip from Fajardo, but I have heard that the one in Vieques is more prominent. But this requires you to fly or take a ferry to Vieques and stay in Vieques for the night and come back the next day. There is air flamenco which will give you flight options from Ceiba. There is also a place called Air Taxi in the Ceiba terminal, for unreserved guests who wants to make the trip, but I do not know how much this would cost.

8. We went to Culebra only to see the Flamenco beach. I really loved this beach, but Playa Sucia is an equally beautiful beach. I could not go to Playa Buye, but I am sure that one will also be equally beautiful. But Culebra could be a 1 day trip if you have the time for it.

9. Having snorkeling gear and life jackets with us helped us a lot. Yes its bulky to carry around, but this was a constant activity in every beach we went to, to try and breathe under the water using the snorkel. Both Pranav and Tara learnt how to use the gear under water because of that. We also did guided snorkelling in Escamboron beach and in Rincon Tres Palms Marine reserve in Rincon

10. For the beach, have a good beach mat, and carry towels, and flip flops etc, and always have extra clothes in your bag.


Day 1: Travel to San Juan from Bay Area

Day 2 : Old San Juan, El Morro. Checked out couple of eating places

Day 3: Fly to Culebra from Cieba

Day 4: Snorkeling in San Juan + Dinner in Old San Juan + Umbrella street light show

Day 5 : Drive to Ponce, Yaoca and Cabo Rojo - Playa Sucia

Day 6 : Rincon - Domes Beach, Snorkeling in Tres Palmes Marine Reserve, Crash Boat beach

Day 7 : El Yunque, Rainforest ziplining and Bioluminescence tour in Fajardo

Day 8 : Old San Juan, Condado Lagoon

Day 9 : Checkout Pastry shop in Isle Verde and Travel back to Bay Area

Some food recommendations in San Juan area

  • Waffle-era tea house - amazing sweet and savory waffles! 
  • Raices - good PR food - sit down place.
  • Miramar food truck - local ambience and PR food. 
  • Stuffed Avacado - inside old San Juan - very nice food. You can make your own avacado bowls 
  • Senor Poleta - old San Juan - very nice frozen popsicles 
  • La Factoria - for cocktails - pretty famous in San Juan 
  • Harbor restaurant - next to bio bay in Fjardo. If you go here for your kayaking, then it’s an option to check out. 
  • Panaderia Espana - Amazing pasteries
  • Cuban food - Ropa Veija grill


  • Don Ruiz 
  • Cuatro Sombras

Places we have not tried, but heard was good cafes 

  •    Finca Cialitos
  •    Café Colao
  •    Café Con C
  •    Cafe Manolin 

    Other places we heard about 

    • La Heladeria Funky Berry - icecream - Guava cookie crunch 
    • Louisa ( Spanish restaurant)- Barratta 
    • Chocolate Cortes - restaurant everything made with chocolate. 
    • Don Taco
    • Hotel Fairmont Restaurant - great for brunch, lunch, dinner etc

    Food to try

    • Mofongo 
    • Alcapurias - Yucca fritters 
    • Empanidillas 
    • Tostones 
    • Rice and beans ( miramar food truck was the best)
    • Yucca fritters 
    • Mallorcas - you will get in cafe Don Ruiz
    • Tembleque (dessert)
    • Pesteles
    • Pestelon
    • Pina colada!

    Day 1 : Travel to San Juan. 

    Yes! First day of holidays and our travel day. I had an early start to my day with my yoga class, and packed a few remaining things for the trip. We got ready and left for the airport by around 10:00 am. During the drive, we were checking regarding Pappu’s covid test result and what panicked me was the Fulgent genetics link for test results said your specimen has not been sent to the lab. I was panicking and I thought now we will need to do another covid test, in SFO or Puerto Rico and wait for the results. This panic took the fun out of the start of the trip for me for about 3 hrs. 

    We reached SFO and checked in and while we waited at the gate, I called the Fulgent genetics lab twice to understand the status where they routed me to Santa Clara valley medical center support number. They sent me another number to call, but by then boarding started so I could not call them. So in my mind, I was so worried on what we will do once we reach PR. I was also nagging  Sree and in general not enjoying my two lovely kids enjoying their plane ride after so long. 

    I am grateful that I remembered to capture some videos of this :). While in flight, Sree booked a covid test in PR, just as a back up. 

    Waiting for sky train

    First flight in 2 yrs

    First flight in 2 yrs 

    Once the flight took off, we all got headphones and the entertainment system in this flight was so good. Almost a 100 movies to choose from. The kids chose their kids movies, Sree some comedy stuff and I chose the Martian. This is the second time, I was seeing the movie after reading the book, and it felt so great to watch it again. I completely relaxed those three hours. I was able to get some food from the airport before we boarded - which was really good Mediterranean food and the kids had them nicely in the plane. We also enjoyed it. 

    We landed in Chicago with my spirits high, and I tried the support number given to me again. Luckily, they picked up, and confirmed he was negative and also sent us the confirmation letter. This was a relief! Sree got some food for the kids and we waited around the gate  to board the San Juan flight. 

    The flight to San Juan was an older flight with no entertainment, so we gave the kids iPads for sometime, and then after some refreshments asked them to go to sleep. Sree sat next to them in the plane, and I was sitting on the other side. 

    A girl was sitting next to me, and the moment I realized she is a PR local, I asked her for recommendations of activities and she told me some good suggestions on food and places to visit! I noted them down. She was so sweet.We also chatted a lot about other life stuff, like her medicine career, and general cultural topics. 

    I got barely an hour of sleep on the plane, and we reached San Juan around 4 AM San Juan time. The heat hit us very quickly. The place was so warm. The baggage claim and rental car pick up was all very smooth, and our airBnB was 10 mins away from the airport. We took a while to figure out where to park, and how to open the garage, as per the instructions of the host, and got into our 2 bedroom 1 bath AirBnB. The place was spacious and enough for us. We quickly unpacked a few things, had a quick shower and around 6:30 AM, went to bed to catch a few hours of sleep.

    First pic in Puerto Rico

    Day 2 : All about food and San Juan 

    After a few hours of sleep, around 9:45 AM, I forced myself to wake up. I got ready, and also checked up on timings for San Juan El Morro Fort, and a general plan for the day. The kids and Sree were still groggy with the jet lag, but they all woke up and got ready for us to go for brunch around 12.

    We went to a place  called  Waffles-era tea home where they both have sweet waffles and savory waffles and was simply yummy!!!! I had ordered the combination of sweet and savory one - crembule and one with ham, eggs and cheese (Big Breakfast). Sree ordered the Proscuitto waffle, and for kids we ordered the Nutella waffle. I have never even thought you could make these kind of waffles.Sophia, the girl I met on the plane, Sophia,  had mentioned about this place, and we decided it would be a good brunch try. It was warm, but there was a nice wind blowing, and it was great to sit outside and enjoy this brunch. We had decided to uber today, and it was a good decision, as parking in San Juan would have been tough. The roads are narrow and it’s generally a pain to drive. 

    savory waffle

    Crembule waffle

    Nutella waffle 

    Our next stop was Casa El Morro, so we ubered . As we were driving through we started getting the first look of the multi colored San Juan city. We got out at El morro and was easily struck by the views from this place. This was so beautifully landscaped and the views from here were amazing. We went around the fort, and explored the windows to the open ocean and some of the passage ways. We checked out different levels of the fort. 

    El Morro grounds

    We got a kite from the gift shop and went back to the lawn area, and did some kite flying. We spent about 30 mins flying the kite and laying on the grass. We started back and got some shaved ice and sorbet. My friend Sophia had mentioned this was really good. I took the coconut and passion fruit flavor and kids got the shaved ice - blue berry, strawberry and tamarind. For some reason, me or Sree did not fancy the shaved ice as it  had a strong artificial flavor. The sorbet was also just ok.

    Kite flying 

    Shaved ice and gelato!

    We decided to walk towards umbrella street and it started to rain. We stood under a tree and waited and in a few minutes it stopped. I have heard about Puerto Rico in general that we should not be discouraged by the rain. So we resumed walking through the cobbled streets to find the umbrella street. Usually this is one where you can see a lot of umbrellas suspended, but this time, it is all lights. It’s the street leading into the governors mansion. The lights were not turned on, and also we were conserving charge in our phone, so did not take too many pics. I think I need to come back to these beautiful cobbled and colorful streets of San Juan to take more pictures. 

    Shelter under tree from the rain

    From here, we walked till the end of the street to a chapel, where there were tonnes of pigeons and me and Pappu, bought some pigeon food and fed the pigeons. But they were so aggressive that I had to hand it over to Sree and he was feeding them.

    Pigeons near umbrella street  

    I asked around for one of the cafes I had noted down, and got directions and we walked towards the cafe. The coffee here was awesome and so was the hot chocolate. We sat here for a sometime, while our phones charged and also chit chatted with another malayalee couple from New Jersey. They were telling they went to Vieques and how beautiful Vieques was. Maybe next trip, I should definitely check Vieques out.

    Cafe Cuatro Sombres 

    We walked a little more in Old San Juan and got some earrings, and beach bag and flip flops for Tara and then called an uber to Miramar Food truck for dinner.

    Here I ordered all authentic PR food and had a hearty meal! It was so good and yummy.Ordered the Mofongo, Yuca Fritters, the PR rice and beans, Temblique, empanidillas, tostones. I also got some yummy Pina colada, and got a local beer for Sree. Everything was yummy! 

    We reached back our airBnb, discussed plans for tomorrow and called it a day.

    Miramar Food Truck

    Mofongo, Yucca Fritters, Rice and Beans, Tostones, Pina Colada and Hibiscus and Pineapple juices 

    Day 3 : Culebra 

    Although we slept early, I had a disturbed night with waking up at 12 AM and then at 3 AM again. I was awake till the alarm rang at 5 AM, and woke up to pack for our trip to Culebra. We packed a beach bag and one more bag with our snorkel gears, beach towels, change of clothes and few other essentials. We woke up the kids, they had slept early, so they were not that groggy. We started to Cieba to catch our flight to Culebra. The weather was so unpredictable, it would pour constantly for 5 mins, and then it would stop! One of the good advice I heard from Sophia was that do not be discouraged if its raining.We reached there early enough, around 7:30 AM. Our check-in was at 8:30. We sat in the car, and had our jelly sandwiches, and was about to cross to the terminal, when there was a 5 min shower again, which drenched us. But this brought a double rainbow in the sky!

    Spotting double rainbows

    The check-in process was fine, they weighed all of us, and our bags as it was a small plane. Similar to the one we did in Talkeetna in Alaska. As we waited, we explored an option of renting a car in Culebra to go around the island independently. We called the car rental place, and they said once we reach the airport, we should be able to get a car. We looked through the Culebra map and figured out where Flamenco beach is and decided after food, we will head there directly.


    Pappu got a chance to sit in the pilot seat.

    Our flight was ready for take off early, and we boarded. The flight started off, and it was so amazing to fly above the water. The total flight time was only 15 minutes, and as it descended there were some bumps, but we landed fine. After landing, we went to the car rental booth at the airport, and rented a jeep. You could also rent a golf cart, if the kids are 12 yrs and older. First we thought we will get breakfast and tried Culebra coffee. This was near the ferry terminal, but it was closed. So I asked someone on the way, and they pointed to another small place. This was the only road where they had some small restaurants. And we ordered some French toast, and sandwiches etc, but it took 30 minutes for our order to be ready. We packed it togo and left to Flamenco beach which was only a short distance away. The roads are really tiny here, and it is a sleepy town, but yet, its amazing to be on an almost non crowded island. We reached Flamenco beach, and we took all the stuff and walked into the beach. We found a spot to sit down and have our food. After the food, we packed up stuff, and kept only the necessary items we needed and Sree went and dumped the rest in the jeep. We walked from one end of the flamenco beach to the other, and kids loved playing with the waves. We saw the old tank and took some pics near it. The beach was so beautiful with its white sand. There was also a sudden shower, which drenched us all again and we took shelter under a tree. After the shower, we continued to walk to where our stuff was. Then me and kids decided to get used to our snorkel gear, and tried snorkeling. I realized that the gear we got was good, and I was able to breathe fine under the water. I made Kungu feel comfortable and Pappu was still understanding how to breathe. We were at the beach for a good 3 hrs, and we wanted to check out the Tamarino Beach too. When we reached here, we realized this is a much better place to snorkel, and right next to shore itself, we could see 3 fishes very clearly. That was fun to watch. I think after my scuba diving experience, I learnt to breathe more calmly under water. By now it was almost 2:30 PM, so we started off, went and put gas in one part of the island, and then by 2:45 returned the car. Going to any other part of the island would have been another 40 minutes to and fro, and we would have been a bit late for car rental and check in. 

    Flamenco beach

    Drenched in rain

    Trying snorkeling gears

    We went to the airport, Sree changed and our flight took off at 4 PM on time. This time the ride and landing was so much more smoother. We also took a pic with the pilot and Pappu got a chance to sit on the pilot seat.

    I could hardly keep my eyes open, and slept for 15 mins in the car on the drive back. Both kids slept. We reached home around 5:30 PM, then all of us showered and got ready for dinner in the evening. We tried out this restaurant recommended by our uber driver. This was cuban food, and the ambience was great with some live music. Everything we ordered was so good. We ordered the rice and beans, the cod fritters, a salmon for me, and Cuban beef and rice for Sree. We also ordered 3 drinks which were all so good and ended it with a yummy cheese cake.

    I could barely keep my eyes open, and I slept off the moment I reached home around 9 PM.

    Day 4 : Snorkeling and Night time at San Juan

    After a restful sleep, we woke up around 9 AM. I got dressed and got Kungu ready as both of us had a snorkeling trip at 11. We ubered there at 10:30 AM, and took some pics at the beautiful location of Escambron beach while we waited.  Meanwhile Sree and Pranav checked out a beach next to our Airbnb.

    As we waited for snorkeling

    The tour happened right on time, and we were lucky, we got Julial the tour guide all to ourselves. He explained a few guidelines and essentially it was just breathing through our snorkels and flapping our legs. It was an amazing experience for me and Tara! We saw lots of blue, yellow and striped fishes in the water, and were so happy! Tara did super great, this being her first time! We almost did for an hour and she never once panicked even if water went into her snorkel or into her mouth. We came back after an hour and I would recommend this tour for all first time snorkelers.

    Me and Tara

     I called Sree and asked him to bring Pappu over, and rescheduled his tour for 1 PM. Julial also took him and a few others out there into the ocean, and he was able to see many fishes. While Sree was doing his tour, I took Pappu and Kungu to do some shore snorkeling. Mainly its for Pappu to get used to breathing under water.

    Sree getting ready to snorkel

    With our guide Juliel

    We were all hungry after this, so we came home quickly and changed and around 4 PM went to Old San Juan. We went to this restaurant called Raices. This also came highly recommended by uber driver :). Now you can know where my source of recommendations come from :). The place had a wait time of 30 minutes, so we walked around with some gelatos in our hands. I wanted to take some snaps in Old San Juan with the colors of the buildings, and by the time we had our amazing dinner of mofongo, tacos and beans and rice, it was dark. I was feeling a bit upset that I could not take the pics today, will have to figure out another day.

    Walking around san juan


    We walked around in the direction go the umbrella street. It looked beautiful with all the lights turned on. And there was also a light show there, where they opened up umbrella street and did the light show on the governors office walls. We took some pics and then walked to La Factoria. This place was crowded, so we thought we will go to the Christmas Market on our street and check out what that is about. This place had some live music, and some Christmas decor and there was not anything else, as the booths were all closing down. We walked around, sat there for a while and walked back to our home.

    Umbrella street in the night 

    Christmas market 

    I went to CVS to get some stuff, and walked back, and then was looking into what we should be seeing on our way from San Juan to Cabo Rojo tomorrow.

    Day 5 : Ponce, Yauco, Cabo Rojo

    Today was our road trip to Rincon and Cabo Rojo. In the morning we packed 2 days of clothes, swim wear, other essentials, beach stuff and left the airBnB around 9 am. Our first stop was at Walmart to make sure we get life jackets and some food. The Walmart was 45 mins away and it took another 45 minutes to purchase. 

    We drove straight to Ponce castle. We got the tickets from the office inside the castle. Though they had an inside tour. We just took the tour of the garden. The ticket also includes the Japanese garden a little distance away, but we skipped this in the interest of time. We explored the beautiful tropical garden and views. I was happy to see tropical flowers like thechi, bougenvilla etc growing so nicely here. We had our packed lunch and started to Youco. 

    Ponce castle grounds

    We reached here by 1:00. This is a city with painted colorful walls, to attract tourists to come and take pictures and in the event some small businesses can make little money by selling some drinks. It was nice to see these colorful walls and we clicked some pictures. The sun was extreme so Tara was getting tired. 


    We walked back and started to sunflower field. When we reached there, we saw that it was closed. I walked around a bit and spoke to my friend whom I met in the plane, and she said you can’t see it from the front and you need to drive a good 5 mins drive inside before you can see sun flowers. It’s a bummer this place was closed. 

    Our next stop was to see the pink waters formed by salt evaporations. Took some pics here again, to capture the colors and drove to Cabo Rojo lighthouse. 

    Cabo Rojo light house trail

    We did a short hike there to see some magnificent views and of course the beautiful light house. 

    After 30 minutes, we came down and took our car to Playa Sucia which was right there. I was totally surprised with playa Sucia. It had these small tree groves, stretching across the beach. The kids enjoyed the water, I was mesmerized with the beauty, and Sree got some break. We spent about an hour here.This beach was beautiful. This was very much like the Flamenco beach but a little bit smaller and with different vegetation than Flamenco beach. We drove back to our hotel in Cabo Rojo, stopping at the pink lakes again to take a few better pics and at a subway to buy some dinner. 

    Playa Sucia

    We checked in to Holiday Inn, near Cabo Rojo , took showers, had food and settled in for the day. I am extremely excited about the snorkeling trip we booked at Rincon marine reserve area. 

    Day 6 : Rincon

    Today was all about beaches. We had a good night’s sleep and woke up around 7 am. After a good breakfast at the holiday inn cafe, we started off to our first destination, which was 30 mins away, the Dome’s beach in Rincon. Our aim was to watch the surfers here and there were many. From small girls to adults there were many folks catching the waves and surfing there. We also got a great spot to lie down and watch them all. There was a swing on the beach which Pappu was happy with. The kids also collected seashells and made sand castle. Me and Pappu went on a walk to do the Dome’s trail. Many beautiful inlets along the way, and this was a short walk. 

    We came back and after one more hour, we decided to pack up and go to Steps beach where my snorkeling tour kiosk was. On checking again, they told us to come to the beach next to Step’s beach and we went there. We parked and met with the instructor who gave us our fins, life jackets and general instructions. It was only me and Tara. Sree and Pappu said they will do snorkeling by the shore. Me and Tara started the tour and Sara was our tour guide. This was much more deeper water than Escambron and we both needed the booie to hang on to. The first round, we kept adjusting our snorkels and decided to do a bit more rounds of shallow water. Third and fourth rounds we went more deeper to snorkel. We kept holding onto Sara’s hand or the booie all the time. We saw many fishes, yellow, blue, sandy shades, some big ones and black ones. There was some tiff between Sara and a boat guy docking there, otherwise everything was fine. We felt happy we were able to do the snorkeling. Unfortunately there are no pics or videos from this tour, even though the website had mentioned there are pics and videos available as part of the tour.

    Around 3, we joined Sree and Pappu and left Rincon. We had lunch at a near by restaurant called Harbor. This took about an hour, ordered normal PR food of rice and beans and Mofongo.

    After lunch we went to crash boat beach. This was a child friendly beach, kids and me snorkeled more around the shore and we also got to see a very beautiful sunset.

    Sunset at crash boat beach

    Crash Boat Beach sunset 

    We started back at 6 pm, and reached Condado around 8:15 pm. I quickly went to the fresh market opposite our airBnb and got some essentials for El Yunque trip tomorrow. 

    All of us showered off the sand from our bodies, started a cycle of laundry, had a light dinner of left overs and called it a day. 

    Day 7 : El Yunque Rainforest - ziplining and bioluminescent tour 

    We woke up early and had an early start by 7 am today. We were going to visit the El Yunque rainforest, and was also carrying food with us as we were told that there weren’t many food options inside the park. We reached El Yunque sharp at 8 am, and showed our reservation and went inside the park. We had downloaded the app for the park, and looked at those to start with the first set of sight seeings. 

    First one was La coma falls, where the hike would have been nice to do, but it was also risky with kids. So I dropped doing that. Then we went to the next point, Yokahu tower, and the following one which was a .4 mile hike to a small beautiful falls- Juan Diego falls. We spent some time here and then drove to Camatilla trail. We parked and walked this trail for about 45-an hour minutes or so and it was beautiful. It also connected to El Yunque trail, we followed it for a while, and came back down. It was so nice to walk through the rainforest greenery. The kids also managed fine. After this we stopped at the nearby picnic area - Palo Colarado site. We had our lunch here,  bread and a choice of three types of hummus. The chocolate hummus being something we were trying for the first time. Loved it. After good lunch, and restroom break, we went to Mt Britton trail head. 

    This leads you to a tower on top with beautiful views. Since the kids were a little tired and parking being a problem, I asked Sree to drop me at the trail head, so that I can go up and come down first and then he can. So it took me 45 minutes or so to go upto the tower and come back. So worth it!. It had beautiful views from the top, and the trail was a very well paved one. I came down and then Sree went up and came down. By now it was 2 pm. My zip lining was at 3 pm. We could have covered may be one more small trail, but the route to it was much further away and we might not make it in time for the ziplining. So around 2:15, we decided to turn back. But the rainforest was a beautiful experience and if I come back to PR again, I would definitely want to do this again. 

    We drove to the ziplining park, I checked in, and waited for my tour. I was a little nervous as I was not sure how I would feel about heights. I met 2 young guys and an older person there. They were actors and pilots from LA. They were just before me in ziplining, and I told one of them, Zack, how I am feeling a bit anxious, and we started chatting. He told he was an actor from Australia, and does tv shows.  Our tour started on time, and there were 8 lines,.I did the first one, and I felt fine, and then second, third and fourth. Fifth one I got stuck in the middle, but I pulled myself into landing. I think I spun around in the zipline, and I braked too soon to correct it. After this line, line 6 was fine and then I went to a truck which took all of us to lines 7 and 8. I told them about how I got stuck on the zipline and they were all entertained. Me and Zack did line 7 together, this was through the rain forest. And it was free run, which means we could do it without handling the breaks ourselves. So it was so much fun. I was not that scared. After this, we did our last line, which was also through the rain forest and here we had to handle the breaks on our own. This was also fine. I enjoyed doing both and the zip lining through the rain forest. 

    After this, I came back to where Sree had parked and was waiting with kids. We drove down to the bioluminescent tour destination, parked car and we had an hour to have dinner before the tour. So we went to a nearby restaurant and had a nice meal where we tried fried bread and fish fry. Fish fry tasted exactly like kerala fish fry. And we also hogged on pina colada, rice and beans and desserts. We went and waited in the tour ticketing booth and watched National Geographic that was playing there. 

    Around 8, we were taken to the boat, and there were around 8 people on the boat. We steered the boat through a mangrove tunnel, saw bats and heard tree frogs. Then the boat captain asked us to look at the fishes, and put our hands in the water, and then we saw the bioluminescence! This was really cool. The water was flowing and as we rowed along with our hands and also the poles they gave, we could see the glow! First time experiencing something like this and we were all so excited. The kids and everyone in the boat. We could also see fishes jumping in the water and as they jumped there was a glow created as well. So in the night time the fishes jumping were visible with the bioluminescence. Beautiful experience to boat in pitch darkness with the night sky and seeing the glow. After an hour we came back to the boat deck, and then drove down to Condado. We were home by 9:15, and then all of us showered, changed and called it a day. 

    Day 8 : Old San Juan, Condado - relaxing day. 

    We woke up late today, around 8:00 am. Then around 9 am, I went to the beach right in front of our house. Sree and Pranav had gone on the day me and Tara did snorkeling. So I just did a solo walk in the morning around the beach area and took a loop and came back. 

    We got dressed and our main plan today was to try out a food place called stuffed avacado in old San Juan, and then the Don Ruiz cafe, and just walk around there. We took an Uber and went to old San Juan and got into 'Stuffed Avacado'. Loved the food here, we chose few of their selections and all of them tasted good. This will look like a chipotle bowl or something with avacado included. All of us had it well. Then we took some pics of the colorful buildings again as we walked. San Juan is not very crowded in the mornings, it’s in the evenings that slowly crowds start coming.

    We walked a bit and then saw La Factoria, and since it was empty, we went in and sat there and ordered their lavender mule and spiced old fashioned. Both tasted good! I am glad we tried this place.

    La Factoria 

    From here we walked to Senor Poleta where they have frozen lollipops. So many flavors ! I got Dulche de leche one and kids got coconut and strawberry cheesecake. This was yummy too. Our tummy’s were getting too full! We sat on a bench overlooking some of old San Juan and had our popsicles. Two pigeons who loved the sprinkles on our popsicles was around us, and the kids kept feeding a few of their sprinkles. We walked down to the umbrella street from here and saw the flock of pigeons there! Same as last time. Kids again wanted to feed them, so we got the food again and Tara and Pranav fed the pigeons while me and Sree took so many pics of them doing it. From here we went into couple of gift shops and collected some souvenirs. I am most excited about two tea cups that I bought. We kept taking pics of me and kids in these colorful streets and the  n walked to Don Ruiz Cafe. Here we spent a good hour or so, just chatting. Their coffee was amazing, the espresso shots and so was a PR speciality called Mollorkas. The kids played a game or so, while me and Sree sat and chatted.

    Senor Poleta 

    We walked around old San Juan again, and went into a beautiful chapel in the city, which had a very peaceful vibe. Sat here for a few minutes and then, walked over to Marshals. We needed an extra bag, as some of our stuff did not fit in well into the two suitcases we had. So we got a suitcase and took an uber and came back to our airbnb. Sree and kids went into the airbnb while I walked down to see what the Condado lagoon is all about. I walked the entire street till the end, saw some kayaks and the lagoon area. I also wanted to try the scooter here and figured out a way to rent it. But when I started it, it was so fast, that I was losing balance and did not have the confidence to ride it with the cars in that speed.And there was no speed control. Or rather I did not know how to control it. So after a while I left it on the sidewalk and walked down. 


    Cafe Don Ruiz

    I had a coconut water from a store nearby and then also went to CVS to get a Dulche de leche chocolate that you get here, and a bottle of wine and came back. We packed a bit and watched some TV and called it a day. I have been feeling a little low towards the evening as I know the vacation is ending. I was hoping it could remain this way forever. 

    Local candies! Loved these

    Day 9: half day in PR and then flying back

    I lay on the bed today, thinking how much I am going to miss vacation mode. I have truly enjoyed the warm weather, the fact that I can get into water without feeling cold at all, the yummy food options here. Today is the last day of the vacation, and I am feeling a bit sad. I wish I could explore one more place. But again, I am going home with one more week to relax and wind down and meet some friends. So that’s still good. 

    We did our remaining packing in a very relaxed way, then got the kids up and ready and got out of the apartment around 9:30. The car wash was closed so we went to the pastry shop in Isla Verde to check out puertorican pastries (Panaderia Espana bakery). Their selections were amazing and the place had long queues. Especially due to Christmas Eve. We got in and got some empanadas, guava pastry and donuts for kids. The eat in was closed so we took the food to the car, and we had it in the car. The pastries were so tasty! No wonder the place was so crowded. I loved the empanada so much that, I went in and ordered one more. From here, we tried to do a car wash, and none of the automatic ones were working, so we ditched the idea of car wash, went to the airport. 

    We had to return the car by 12, so we dropped it off, and then went into the terminal. After the usual check-in and security check process, we waited at the gate. I got some food for kids and us to have in the plane. The plane was on time and after we boarded the flight, all of us settled in with our movies. I saw "The departed",I am a huge Matt Damon fan, and loved this movie. I think I had seen it long time ago, but forgot the plot. I was also able to capture a beautiful sunset from the plane.We reached the New Jersey airport, and realized the flight is delayed by 5 hrs. We thought of getting the lounge pass, but decided to just kill time at the airport. After some good food at one of the airport restaurants, and kids were settled in at the gate again, me and Sree took turns in going for a walk around the terminals.

    Sunset through the clouds 

    Christmas eve 

    Finally, after much wait, we boarded the flight at 1 AM, and slept off immediately. We woke up when we landed in SFO at 4:30 AM, collected our baggage and took some time to get into the long term parking lot and find our car. We reached home around 6:30 AM, and the kids immediately ran to see if Santa had kept any gifts for them under the tree, as today was Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Looking forward to relaxing the next few days and tackle 2022!